Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Rainfall 2005
(Aired 20 January 2005)

   It had to happen, I forecasted that it would, that we would have a disaster in this country and that we would be completely incapable of coping with it, because everyone did the wrong thing. What we are seeing here are the accumulated effects of decades of incompetence and contempt for us by those who are supposed to manage our country on our behalf and it has rendered them incapable of governing properly, or to cope with any disaster whatsoever. And it is our fault because we did not demand accountability.

    This is a national disaster not a disaster confined to regions 3, 4 & 5 the people affected amount to more than 60 percent of our national population, the courts have shut down, the ministries have shut down, the schools have shut down, the civil and pubic service have shut down, all commerce has virtually crunched to a halt, so this is not a matter that concerns regions 3, 4 & 5 the entire country's administrative and social infrastructure has collapsed and that is the simple truth.

    So let us start at the beginning, so far in the month of January 2005 we have received about 36 inches of rainfall, most of which fell from the evening of the 14th January and continued almost unchecked to the present time Tuesday 18th 2005.    

      By Monday 17th January because of this continuous rainfall, areas in regions 3,4 & 5 began to flood heavily but the flooding was not only as a result of direct rainfall alone, quite a bit of the flooding was coming from the overtopping of the Boerisiri and Lama conservancies, some even suspected that there are breaches in the conservancies causing an already bad situation to become worse.

    Now whilst our systems are not designed to take this sort of rainfall, we in the West Bank and West Coast were spared what we saw happening in Georgetown and on the East Coast where the drainage systems seem to be non existent, since our drainage sytem was functioning at some level of effectiveness. And I am saying again for those who want to hear the truth, this kind of rainfall is not normal and our system is not designed to handle it, but it is strange to see the East Coast residents under so much water since the sugar estates maintain their drainage systems in reasonable shape, I am still unable to comprehend why I saw people standing in 3-4 feet of water on the East Coast.

    First I want to address how our government reacted to this emergency.

    On Monday 17th January Mr. Jagdeo called an emergency meeting at which the following disclosures were made to the opposition; (a) that the Civil Defence Commission was non existent at this time and that he, Jagdeo, was unable to contact a single person from it except Dr.Luncheon; but ladies and gentlemen Luncheon is the Chairman of the commission so can it be that the President did not ask him to explain to the public why it was non existent, that is how this is supposed to work, we are paying this man to be our Chief Executive Officer in this country, how can he tell us that he and his right hand man don't know where the Civil Defence Commission is. That was the first warning that we were in real trouble and it told me that the PPP is completely unprepared to deal with any emergency whatsoever in this country.

    (b) At the meeting the President convened, brigadier Collins from the GDF told him and his Ministers that the GDF had already set up an operations centre at Ayangana and was ready to mobilise and to coordinate to help in this emergency, the President then made his first of many blunders on this day, he told the GDF to stand down, that they were to render reconnaissance information only but that he and his Ministers, all political incompetents, would handle the situation and that the operations centre would be at State House, which by the way was flooded out. That is why you have not seen engineers, doctors or people with training and experience coming to your aid in this crisis ladies and gentlemen.

   (c) So faced with this huge disaster Mr. Jagdeo himself makes it a political football by telling the GDF to stand down and sent his incompetent political comrades Shadik, Collymore, Xavier, Westford, Sam Hinds and so on, to get a report on the situation, after doing this Mr. Jagdeo then had the temerity to tell all the media assembled that he does not want this to become a political football.

   Well Mr. President, I, Anthony Vieira, a citizen of this country, am accusing you of making it a political football by the first decision you made.

     Handling a situation like this comes down to prioritising the situation and this comes from receiving accurate and up to date information and by mobilising forces trained to deal with such emergencies. Not the confusion we are witnessing from the executive.

   The second mistake Mr. Jagdeo made on this day was to tell us that the Civil Defence Commission was non existent, but he did not ask Mr. Luncheon the Chairman of this Commission to tell the people of this country why it was non existent. To this time Mr. Luncheon has told us nothing. We require that he tells us what happened to it, I also want to know if we have been paying the members of this Commission and if we were, we want this money back.

   The third mistake was not declaring a state of emergency immediately which would have allowed him to access monies from the Caribbean Development Bank set aside for these kinds of situations. There is also credible evidence that Mr. Jagdeo refused to accept help offered to him by the Americans, clearly he wanted political mileage from this distress on the Guyanese people, but what his Ministers are doing is a bigger disaster than the flood.

  The fourth mistake was to underestimate the needs of this disaster, allocating 20 million dollars is a joke this is a situation if addressed properly would cost at least 100 million to feed and help those who are dispossessed.

   Then came mistake number five Mr. Jagdeo denied reports that the Lama dam had given away, he claimed that the Lama dam was merely overtopping, well Mr. Jagdeo did we not pay B.K. Tiwari 400 Million Dollars to raise the bank of the Lama and is it not true that today the Lama is not capable of holding water at 58.8 GD as it was capable of doing before Mr. Tiwari interfered with it? Is it not also true that the Lama level is less than 57 GD right now, 1.8 ft. lower than it was capable of holding water before Mr. Tiwari interfered with it? So why is it overtopping? Are the people at the IDB asking where this money they lent us to raise this dam went? Whether it was a break away or it was overtopping, it all boils down to incompetence and corruption and all of the people on the East Coast should combine their economic power and sue the hell out of the Government for this alone.  

    So what we have is a situation where too small an amount of 20 million is being allocated to a substandard, untrained, incompetent force to handle this situation and the results are being felt everywhere even as we are watching our property floating away, a great pity that the PPP are not floating away with it, so I repeat there is no credible evidence that any substantial amount of relief is being brought to those affected, no money, no water, no food, the plan seems to be to tell those affected to report at some fictitious place where they will be helped and when they turn up there nothing happens.   

    A proper plan would be for the Government to tell the people through advertising on TV and radio where to go within their areas and what relief will be given to them especially rice, sugar, flour and water and what time and place the distribution will start, have any of you seen this announcement? I haven't!

    But imagine the confusion and ineptness that prompts a desperate confused President to tell his people to go to the nearest shop and take credit for goods which according to all reports have already been destroyed by flooding, i.e. flour, rice, sugar etc. and imagine the concept of them taking it to their flooded homes in which they cannot live and cook it, it's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.

    Everywhere you turn in this country you see Chinese and other cook shops, what is wrong with co-opting all of them in an economic arrangement and let them prepare food for those affected, in Pouderoyen for example there are at least 3 Chinese restaurants and other eating places my first thought when I visited this area today the 18th January, was, why the government did not give these Chinese cook shops rice, oil, Chicken and so on to prepare food for those affected, why can't the government make an arrangement with all of the hotels and restaurants in the country to provide these meals and let the GDF deliver it to the neighbourhood councils until the situation settles down, what do we have Neighbourhood Councils for, let the members oversee that the sharing of food is conducted fairly, that is how you mobilise people and let them be real leaders in their communities that is how you have an effective response to this disaster not the nonsense we see going on.